Wednesday, December 29, 2010

O Holy Night!

The stars are indeed brightly shining! The days continue to be blustery with mist and sun but oh the nights are filled with a sky painted with brilliant stars.

Christmas Eve found us busy decorating the Meeting House at the school in preparation for the Christmas Day festivities. I took the kids with me and they were a huge help, picking out ornaments, adorning the window sills with pine branches and selecting paper cut outs of snowflakes to decorate the windows. After three hours, our job was done...and well I might add! I spent the entire three hours humming and singing Christmas carols, with clearly "The Little Drummer Boy" being a favorite. The others on the decorating committee put up with my singing and were good sports as, what's that saying..."a little goes a long way". Back home with enough time to put the finishing touches on our gifts for the Christmas gift exchange, make more candied almonds as a hostess gift for our evening out and bake glazed carrots to take to Marie-Cecil's for a pot-luck feast. The gathering was festive and the kids were certainly geared up for Santa's arrival. Jeff and George (friends that live just up by the Cheese Factory) heard me relating during the decorating earlier in the day how much John enjoyed "The Little drummer boy" movie and how inquisitive he was and still is about the story and everything that happened to Aaron (the little drummer boy). Jeff called us that afternoon and offered a set of drums to us that they no longer use, thinking it would be a great gift given the story I had shared that very same morning. We figured out the logistics at Marie-Cecil's and they did the drop off shortly after we got the kids down on Christmas Eve. The boys were delighted on Christmas morning, especially John, who shyly grinned as he looked up after singing and drumming his favorite Christmas tune. What a generous gift from Jeff and George.

Christmas morning was, as you can imagine, filled with lots of excitement and questions about "How did Santa know I wanted....". Thank you Poppy and Choppy for the wonderful gifts, the creative crafts for the boys and the new watches. They are always eager to tell time and I make sure I ask them each hour "what time is it?". They love their 'big boy' watches. I love my new fleece which I am already breaking in and sleeping in on occasion.

Mom Schaefer, Ellen and John, your gifts arrived two days later, so we again enjoyed Christmas and the boys were delighted with the thoughtful gifts. Mom, we love the used books - what a nice addition to our somewhat stale selection. We have already read "Boogie Bones" ten times over. The Christmas ornaments are great and add a touch of "formality" to our Christmas tree. The animals and activity books are perfect - loads of fun and enjoyment coming our way. The boys LOVED their lanterns and can't wait to take them along on their next night-hike - what a clever idea! Of course, the pancake skillet goes without saying, "the perfect gift" and yes, we've already used it! THANKS to all for remembering us on Christmas!

Off to the School for the Christmas Day activities. Heading down the road with John, hoping not to drop the Planter work of art that the boys took great pride in painting!

The food was great, the fellowship welcoming and Santa's visit (by our good friend, Theo) perfectly timed. Imagine him riding up on his bike with a bag full of candy for the little ones. All he had to do was mutter "Merry Christmas" and all the kids were onto him - but what fun!

So many great hand-made gifts (the criteria for the gift exchange). Lots of craftsmanship, stained glass, wood carving, photos, paintings, hand-made chairs - all very unique and made with love. Perhaps the most touching of all gifts was the one recited by Guillermo Vargas (who picked Wolf Guindon's name). He wrote a very heart-felt letter to Wolf. He manuevered himself through the maze of people in the meeting room to position himself right infront of Wolf as he spoke so eloquently from his heart. The letter was very intimate and a tribute to Wilford's contribution and commitment to Monteverde as a community. Wolf was deeply touched and I'm sure, will take this memory with him through his remaining days.

The boys loved their gifts, Michael's teacher (Miss Elieth) hand knitted him a hat and scarf, probably thinking that the Schaefer boys could use some extra layers as they come bounding into the classroom on these cold and blustery days with just shorts and a t-shirt, while other kids are fully clad with hats, scarves and gloves! John received a tie-dyed shirt, a hand painted frog pendant and a leaf bookmark. We are busy making thank you cards for all the wonderful gifts received. Here, John is sporting Michael's gift as they hang with their new friend, Lucas!

We enjoyed a great hike in the Reserve with Wendy Rockwell and her two grandchildren (Anthony and Camilla). What a great way to spend our 7th wedding anniversary. Oh what we've done in 7 years! I am lucky to have such a great husband and family We bundled up and squished into Wendy's Tuk-Tuk for the 4 km uphill climb to the reserve. We ended up taking an epic three-hour hike - parts of the trail were all mud and up-hill (my legs and knees still feel it). We were covered in mud upon our return, but boy did we feel like accomplished hikers. Little Camilla (2 1/2) was a real trooper, after hiking all but the last 3/4 of a mile, I scooped her up and she was out on my shoulder, drool and all in seconds!

Last night found us opening up our home to seven folks from Global Volunteers organization who have been working at the local Woman's Coop (Casem) at the bottom of our road. We befriended one gal from Chicagoland the other day as she wandered into our backyard as I was hanging out laundry and we got to talking. Roseanne is a lovely gal and it was comforting to hear that Chicago accent. Mike quickly befriended the gang and invited them to share dinner at our house last night! We invited Veronica and Stuart as well and what a great evening. We celebrated Stuart's 8th birthday with the pineapple cake the gang brought with them...dessert compliments of Stella's Bakery! Roseanne had found a last box of Frango mints in her suitcase with a picture of the Chicago skyline - so naturally she saved it for us - so sweet!

Today we were treated to lunch at Debbie and Evan's - they arrived in September. The boys had fun caring for their two puppies that they are fostering and spending time with their two girls. Thanks Sasha for the hand-made sea-shell turtle and lizard.


We are relishing our family time and sharing with friends. We are enjoying more sleep these days which as you can imagine, makes for a happier household all around! I imagine tomorrow will find us making a list of supplies we need for our zip line and perhaps making plans for New Years Eve! Another year is upon us...what choices and decisions lay ahead...I'm excited to find out! Are you?

Signed: S

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Busy Elves!

Even Santa's helpers need to burn off some steam - enjoying the tight-rope in the pasture - we told the boys we would construct a zip line in our front yard over the holiday - so consider this their canopy experience while they wait for the 'real-thing'. Fun with bubbles too and finally greeting the horses as we made our way to school tonight for yet another Christmas event!

My day started today with a run into Santa Elena - it felt good but I really had to push through the head wind on the way home - but a great way to start the day. Perhaps that was the most relaxing part of my day.

Two days until Christmas and we had barely made a dent in the Christmas gift exchange that was WHAT, only 48 hours away! Good Grief - lets get to work boys! Yesterday while in Santa Elena, I stumbled upon a nursery (of the plant variety) and wandered up the driveway. I was so suprised to see my friend Hugh and his wife Phoebe pop their heads from around the front door. I asked "you live here?", they replied like it was no big deal...."of course, welcome to our slice of paradise", and in deed it was as I panned the georgous vista in front of me, hills and gulf of Nicoya as far as the eye could see. To the right of their house sat a little greenhouse where Phoebe grows a variety of plants. I followed her in and found the perfect gift - a tri level pot, perfect for a variety of small cactuses (which I knew was a favorite of one of our secret Santas). The pot was weathered, but hoped it would look like new with a fresh coat of paint, compliments of the boys. So, our first project today, get those pots painted - and the boys did a wonderful job. Tomorrow, we'll re-glue the top pot back into position (did I mention the pot is well 'used' at best?) and get those cactuses into their new home.

From there, we moved onto making ornaments, some to keep, others to give away. I had a ton of fun and Michael and John enjoyed it too! Mike's artist talent grew with each ornament - "most improved" if ever there was one. Yes, he created the Tarantula ornament...need you ask?

Next, onto making gingerbread cookies - we were hard-pressed to keep little fingers out of the dough mixture, but managed to get some into the oven. YUMMY

A quick clean-up job and then off to the school to attend the BBQ - it was a very peaceful night - the stars were shining bright and the mist a steady one! The kids roasted hot dogs as I opted for a piece of chicken, and Mike beef. The chicken melted in my mouth - it is a rarity that we treat ourselves to chicken, so I enjoyed every bite of it. They had several pits roaring with flames - the pigs were roasted to perfection and ready for cutting up and later to served at Christmas dinner at the School. The boys enjoyed running around with several of their classmates as I warmed my back on the fire.

Last Friday, the Kinder kids sang some Christmas songs and were delightful at the Christmas Assembly. Michael had a tad of 'stage-fright' so he did not make it up on stage, but John sang his heart out and had the cutest little grin on his face the entire time - he really enjoyed it!

My body is tired and tomorrow will come too early. 10 a.m. will find us at the Meeting House decorating away and then home to cook something for the Christmas Eve Pot-Luck at Marie-Cecil's.

Signed: S

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas!

Christmas has arrived as evidenced by the beautiful poinsettia outside the boy's bedroom window! And, if I were sending out a Christmas card this year - I must say the one of the boys with their mugs peeking through the Children's Eternal Rainforest Sign across from our pasture would be IT! They ran ahead while Mike and I were balancing a meal, jackets and other 'standard stuff' that we bring to pot-lucks and gave us a great chance to pull out the camera! Thanks Kids!

Here I sit in yet another doctor’s office awaiting my fourth appointment today; clearly the boys are having more fun exploring the Parque Diversions (amusement park) here in San Jose as I bounce from Clinica Americana to Clinica Catolica, Clinica Biblica and Hospital San Francisco. I even managed to squeeze in an hour of Christmas shopping at the mall in San Pedro between appointments. What productivity as I peer into my shopping bags (two pair of new shoes for the boys, several Spiderman action figures and a Lego set for Loandry). Did I mention you can’t get the Lego brand here on the mountain, so I gladly paid the price for quality building materials! Our boys will be inheriting a ton of Lego’s from an older MFS student who no longer plays with them. Mike and I will clean them up and they’ll be good as new!

We had an uneventful trip from Santa Elena to San Jose on the bus yesterday (Sunday) afternoon – kids were great and we all managed to eek out a little shut-eye on the bus. We had a comfortable nights stay at Hotel Aranjuez (a nice hotel made up of several adjacent homes with beautiful courtyards, wood floors which leads one down narrow halls and little niches for relaxation in the open breeze). The boys enjoyed the SKY T.V. and being treated to some time with Dora this morning.

We’ll leave tomorrow on the 6:30 a.m. bus, getting back to Monteverde just prior to noon. We have a busy few days before Christmas, baking cookies, making Christmas decorations for our secret Santas and picking out a sufficiently large carrot for Santa’s reindeer. We have procrastinated with making our gifts for the two community members whose names we picked during November’s potluck at the school. We better get crackin’ and get the creative juices flowing. At least the boys have written their notes to Santa and took them out in the pasture one night last week and let them go among the wind as the breeze will surely carrying their wish list to the north pole. (I don’t dare tell Michael that I saw his bedraggled note wet with rain the other morning dangling from a branch of one of the Gauva trees!) The Christmas tree is compliments of Gaudy and the boys. They gathered many branches from the pasture and made all the decorations while I was sleeping off an IV drip of antihistamine to combat an allergic reaction I had two weeks ago from an antibiotic - Gaudy is such a blessing! The kids had fun and the tree has really taken shape since this pic!

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without tie-dying shirts - The boys are ole' pros and this years designs are the best yet!

Much to my disappointment, we missed the Christmas Program at the school yesterday as we were traveling to San Jose. The Program is a great event which included an hour plus of carol singing, the children’s play and various other performances. I am sure the Children’s Christmas Story play went off without a hitch and the kids enjoyed it. It was actually taking shape during our final practice this past Saturday. I so enjoyed organizing it this year and already have some new ideas for next year. Thanks to Rowan, Tera, Edda and Meg for assisting. We also missed the Wassail that followed which means we lost out on gorging ourselves with homemade Christmas cookies and Wassail drink. I have fond memories of participating last year and doubt there was even a crumb of a cookie left for any mouse or stray cat to nibble on.

Christmas is certainly a busy time on the green mountain, parties, parties and more parties. Either I am getting old or Monteverdians really know how to ‘throw down’. We’ve been blessed to spend many nights with friends (campfire at Veronicas to bid goodbye to a MFS teacher, dinner party at Thalia and Drew’s, pot-luck at La Colina Lodge to say farewell to Cindye and Hunter (mom and MFS student) who are heading back to the States and a 60th birthday/Christmas Party at Moira and Ward’s house. Mike ran into an old friend at Moira's - what a blast from the past as Nalini peered across the room with the most inquisitive look on her face "I know that guy from somewhere?...Mike, is that you from the Canopy Project?", I guess you can guess what happened next, hugs and laughter and lots of reminiscing. Nalini is a biologist who has a house down here and has done many studies on epiphytes (one of Mike's favorite topics). Mike had a chance to join her on a Canopy project out in the western United States about 10 years ago and here they are...together again, indeed a small world. So much to be thankful for, wonderful friends and opportunities to share good conversation and food!

Today, I walked into Santa Elena for some last minute shopping and enjoyed the wind in my hair and the sun in my face. I met Benito Guindon outside the bank and we exchanged niceties as I asked him for another delivery of milk straight from the farm (this time cow instead of goat) and inquired as to how his dad (the legendary Wilford Guindon) is doing, as he is very frail and recovering from many infections. I was pleased to hear that he was strong enough to take in Sunday’s Christmas program and that he is home on his farm surrounded by friends and family.

Speaking of friends and family, finally news of John and Adrienne’s new arrival (although a week late), little miss Eliza is indeed an early Christmas present. We have missed them as they’ve been in San Jose waiting for the birth and look for them to be back in the community soon. There is no greater blessing than a child.

We will plan to make ornaments with the boys tomorrow out of salt and flour and gingerbread man cookies (although a bottle of molasses is no where to be found), so we’ll see how the bag of Tapa Dulce works as a substitute. Tomorrow night we’ll head to the school for the BBQ, a chance to put a dog on a stick and drink some hot cocoa.

Christmas Eve morning will find us decorating the Meeting House (as we are on the decorating committee) in preparation for the Christmas Day gift exchange and community dinner and then heading to Marie-Cecil’s house for a Christmas Eve Pot Luck.

Mike is active in the garden and really enjoying this beautiful weather. The kids are busy helping Dad care for the seedlings of squash, watermelon, etc. that they started a week or so ago – we have Sprouts!

Mike downloaded several Christmas movies that are bringing back so many memories for us both. We huddled with the boys last night to watch “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and “The Little Drummer Boy”. I felt like I was 8 again, sitting in my family room in my house outside of Toronto in front of a blazing fire with all eyes glued to the tele. So many questions from the boys about the little drummer boy, they loved the story and prompted me to retell the story several times just today. Tonight we watched “Frosty the Snowman” and perhaps tomorrow night, we’ll cap it off with the “Grinch”! Classics for sure. There are lots of questions now about Santa and God and how they relate to each other, “Does God watch Santa too”? “Is God bigger than Santa”? I chuckle as I can see the wheels turning in John’s brain – he wants to know all and won’t give up until Mom delivers a satisfying answer.

Christmas time on the mountain – simple, pure and best of all, warm!